Image for The Prosser dinosaurs ...

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The new river mouth ...

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Sausage bags in place ...

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Natural and safe ...

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Second attempt ...

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First boat through ...

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Work on the passage ...

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Conservation area ...

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Jetties ...

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A tinny ...

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Please don’t disturb ...

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Cute ...

First published December 12

For years now where the Prosser River meets the sea in the once-sleepy hamlet of Orford, modern dinosaurs have been disturbing the tranquility … in the name of the inevitable triplets of such a beautiful spot, Progress, More Progress and Even More Progress.

Coincidental with the arrival of a new wave of entrepreneurial ‘paradise discoverers’, the past decade has seen these princes of progress making sure that Orford is wrested from its natural complacency and thrusted well beyond the present and indeed into the future.

Passers-by may have noticed from the Orford Bridge the lovely setting of boats at jetties, tranquil reflections on a clear, still day from dawn to dusk.

And those enchanted by this riverside quiescence and strolled along the esplanade may also have heard the mutterings: ‘no sense of having a jetty if you can’t get to sea’.

And so, enter the dinosaurs. At first such a simple matter to get a local to dredge the entrance … and it worked … until the first big sea. And it was back to square one. Second attempt, dredge deeper, wider and presto - start your engines, we’re all at sea!

But time and tide had the last word. The Prosser raged with fury, sweeping logs and branches seaward as the sea met this outflow with its own tempest as long-termers had never seen before … and the inevitable again gave notice to seafarers that they’d better do something better, or the Prosser River would become the Prosser Lagoon.

And so in the past twelve months the dinosaurs multiplied in numbers with grim and relentless determination, this time with a curious dimension. Not unlike a giant sausage-machine, hard at work, from dawn till dusk, in a growling continuum that often over-rode the gentle crash of waves along the full length of nearby beaches.

Curious onlookers, some with unwelcome cameras, wondered at the huge works, where entrails from some fairy-tale giant were filled with sand and placed as gargantuan sausages into place.

Where there’s a name for everything these ‘geotextile revetments’ have now become the seawall that Orford had to have, to let boats all and sundry, from yachts to runabouts have access to the sea.

Well, why not, most will concur, while others are harumphing quietly at intrusion of a fake and fugly foreshore and wondering if indeed any of this was necessary. Some of course, are deeply cynical at the temerity of man telling a river where to run. For this Prosser is famous for its tempesting, when the rain falls heavy and uninterrupted for days in the catchments that feed it and sends the overflow cascading on the upstream Prosser Dam.

And so what if the sand-bags empty and the new sea-wall fails? What happens next? There are more than a few onlookers, those cynical closet-engineers who will ask this reasonable question: why turn the fake-river mouth at right-angles to its natural course? Why not just follow the natural river bed for a further hundred yards and let the river run where the river wants to run?

Damn good question. And the answer it seems, flies with the birds.

The gorgeous little fellows that dart amongst the pelicans and shags and nest in elevated beach areas. The common sand piper and other cute little fellas. As if they don’t run the hazards anyway of stray cats and dog-owners who can’t read signs.

The old bandicoot-reserve sign is now long gone as there are now no bandicoots. But it seems these cute little birds are so threatened that this million dollar river-mouth project was designed around them and their rightful place at the mouth of the river.

And so is it true that one of the exponents of the river-mouth project was actually threatened with “do exactly as we say or we’ll rapidly run you out of funds”. Really? Such rhetoric seems out of context with those who so love our little feathered beach friends, which proliferate beyond the Prosser south to Rheban Beach and beyond and North to Bolton’s Beach and beyond.

Well if true, suppose a bit of muscle-flexing is a natural corollary to some local bird given a self-appointed perch to observe all manner of threats real or imagined to threatened coastal species. Military history warns us of corporals turning into tyrants.

As the Prosser dinosaurs grind to a halt for the year, with an alleged promise to return after the coming Christmas season, the new beach is open for business for the many who swarm to this neck of the lovely coastline.

But now is the time to get more serious than flippant about the Prosser Mouth Project. When my beach-loving grandchildren make their way this way for Christmas with nanny and poppy, Prosser river and its huge sausage-mouth will be out of bounds. One slip and they will be gone. The tides will flow in and out, strong, deep and dangerous. If a little tacker falls from the steep sand-banked sides, the chances of easy rescue are far different from a toddler falling into the natural shallows that once skirted the river. Its now river-bank. It’s Steep. It’s deep. It’s dangerous. And its just a few days from Christmas toddler-time. This is not my warning. It is an observation by others who drew my attention to it. It ain’t worth the risk, folks. Take care at the Prosser River mouth. Or totally avoid it. At the end of the day, all this fuss, all this expense, all the politics behind this controversial project … is all about a few boats.

But then again there’s another benefit to it all. It’s good business. An ever-open Prosser River mouth is an assurance of perpetual business from jetty owners with unhindered access to the east coast’s marine gateway to arguably the best recreational fishery in the State (notwithstanding the recent controversial Tassal entry into nearby Okehampton Bay).

A perpetually closed Prosser River mouth would eventuate in the Prosser fleet of boat-owners at jetty, being forced to the expanding nearby Triabunna wharf and marina. And that would not be good business for the shop-owners of Orford on the Prosser … one of whom happens to be, the Glamorgan Spring Bay mayor, Michael Kent.  Any imputation on the good character of Mr Kent, is purely coincidental, and not intentional.

*All about Paul Tapp: From humble beginnings in a Fingal Valley mining town, Paul Tapp’s ambition to become a journalist was denied him before being conscripted into national service and serving as an infantry rifleman in South Vietnam in 1967. His photographs and captions to The Examiner Newspaper during his service were intercepted by the Defence Force and stamped as official PR until Paul produced negatives of ownership. And thus his career began. He was the only journalist to receive the State’s major award for broadcast and print journalism, eventually pursuing a career in Government press secretariats in the NT and in Tasmania. In retirement he investigated the police killing of Joe Gilewicz in 1991, where his work was taken to Parliament by Peg Putt MHA, eventuating in a Commission of Inquiry. Latterly his probing into the disappearance of Lucille Butterworth was the catalyst for a coronial inquest into that matter. Paul continues to ‘keep watch’ and contribute material to the Tasmanian Times.

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